As a vegan, breads and other grains probably make up a sizable portion of your daily food intake. We all love bread, but most of the breads we enjoy today are a far cry from the nutritious, life-supporting ones our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up with. These days, most breads are made from heavily refined ingredients that can contribute to problems like diabetes, weight gain, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, as awareness about the hazards of processed foods grows, healthier varieties of bread are hitting store shelves. Here's how to shop for bread the smart way.
Trust Your Eyes
If possible, inspect the prospective loaf for signs that it actually contains whole grains. The texture should feel dense, look somewhat coarse and grainy and will normally feature dark brown flecks of bran. It's even better if the bread actually contains pieces of whole grains, like wheatberries or oats. These present an additional challenge for your body to digest, so it takes longer. This prevents the large blood sugar spikes that can lead to insulin resistance and a variety of other health problems.
White Flour By Any Other Name
Manufacturers sometimes use deceptive terminology with their ingredients. For instance, if the label says wheat flour or unbleached wheat flour, these are just innocent-seeming terms for refined white flour. Enriched wheat flour also falls into this category. Although enriched flour has some vitamins and minerals artificially added back in, it's still lacking the full range of important nutrients and antioxidants found in the whole grain. When reading the label, a specialist from Klosterman Baking Company recommends making sure the first ingredient is whole wheat flour.
Try Sprouted Breads
If they're available near you, you might want to switch to a bread made from sprouted whole grains. The sprouting process makes many of the grain's nutrients more available and easier to absorb. It also tends to have much higher levels of iron and B vitamins than standard whole grain breads.
Be Aware of Half-Promises
In an effort to make you think their product is healthier than another, bread manufacturers often make claims that aren't entirely truthful. For example, claiming the bread is "made with whole grains" typically just means that it contains some whole grains, not that it's exclusively made from them. The same goes for "multigrain" breads. All this means is that the product contains flours from different grains. It most likely still contains primarily refined flour. Remember, if the first ingredient isn't 100 percent whole wheat, find something else.
With so many supposedly healthy products becoming available in stores, it's harder than ever to determine which ones actually deliver on their promises. Bread is among the worst offenders in this area. However, by using the information above, you can learn how to choose the healthiest possible bread.